Arthur R. Priest Begins Service as Executive Secretary1923
Arthur R. Priest became the Fraternity’s first Executive Secretary in 1923 and brought many years of experience in university teaching and administration to the office. He believed in the fraternity as an educational force rather than a social sideline to student life.
Stressing scholarship, financial management, and group morale, he insisted that “the fraternity must always work in harmony with the college for the true ends of education . . . The future fraternity will ensure the right atmosphere in the chapter house through the presence of a refined housemother. It will ensure the right scholarship through the presence of a preceptor. It will ensure supervised finance through the organization of a group of alumni in connection with every chapter home. Each chapter will realize that it is an integral part of a general organization, and that any action permitted in its own home reflects upon every other home and on the general organization. More and more, there will be developed a national consciousness and a national pride.”
This warm-hearted Phi, dignified and genial, often reflective but never remote, held high standards for the Fraternity.
In failing health and strength, Arthur Priest retired from his duties as executive secretary early in 1937. He had been an ardent Phi for fifty-two years and sixteen years as the Fraternity’s administrative officer. Since 1921 he helped to establish fourteen new chapters and to revive five old ones. As national secretary, he unified the expanding Fraternity, encouraged scholarship, and uplifted morale.
During his busy years as executive secretary, Priest had written a Pledge Manual, compiled a Phi Delta Theta Songbook, and edited the Ninth and Tenth issues of the Fraternity Catalogue. Upon retirement, he began a historical record that would carry on the work Walter Palmer had concluded in 1906. Unfortunately, illness interfered, and death came before the end of the year. In a bequest, he left an endowment creating the annual Arthur Priest Award to the undergraduate Phi who best-combined college and chapter leadership with the teachings of The Bond. This recognition, which has gone to outstanding students for a third of a century, complements the chapter trophies.
He died in Oxford, Ohio, on December 13, 1937. At his funeral in the Miami Chapter House, the ritual ceremony was read by Dean Hoffman, President of the General Council.